Leading Saudi advertising and live events company Alamiya has moved into film production by acquiring start up shingle Lyra Pictures, co-founded by experienced media exec Wesam Kattan, who was part of the Viacom team that launched MTV Arabia. 

Alamiya was founded in 1976 as the first film and TV studio in the kingdom, but was forced to change its business plan in the early 1980s due to the ban on cinema forced by religious conservatives. That ban was lifted 35 years later in late 2017.

Lyra Pictures, which was co-founded in 2022 by Kattan (pictured) and management consultant Bassma El-Afghani — they both previously worked at Dubai-based Genomedia Studios, where Kattan was VP of content — is a startup that is adopting a data-driven film development strategy.

“Most of my career in marketing for broadcast was really [about] being joined at the hip with the guys at the research department and commissioning studies and analyzing ratings in order to better understand the audience and provide a content proposition that resonates with everybody and obviously makes commercial sense,” Kattan told Variety.

That approach appealed to Sultan Al Muheisen, the chairman and CEO of Alamiya, who was looking to combine modern and traditional approaches to film production in “bringing Alamiya back to the filmmaking space,” Kattan noted.

While the company’s projects in various stages of development are still being kept under wraps, Lyra Pictures is in the process of attracting local talent and IP while also looking to service, and team up with, international productions shooting in Saudi Arabia.


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